Fossil has remained one of the few to wear Wear OS in the smartwatch market, even though TicWatch gets an honorable mention, the Gen 5 wearable devices are the best Fossil smartwatch ever. We put one on your wrist to see what it has to offer if you want to add a smartwatch to your daily gadgets.
Gen 5 watches are at the top of the Fossil line right now, with the main differences compared to the Gen 4 models that are: slightly updated interiors, additional battery modes and an internal speaker (to answer telephone calls and make sure that Google Assistant will answer you).
You can choose between six different combinations of straps and colors, which cover three black and gray options and three other elegant gold-colored variants: all use 22 mm straps, so changing the look is not too difficult. The 44 mm case and the 1.3-inch screen may be too large for some tastes, but it is thin and comfortable on the wrist, and the two buttons and the single dial look solid and responsive. Those buttons and the dial also mean that you don’t have to use the touchscreen for every operation on the watch – something that helps on such a small screen. We cannot complain about the style and construction of Fossil Gen 5, and the software also hits.
Tap and scroll answer quickly, and generally, the watch is free of delays. The main software improvement this time is the introduction of four battery modes, which progressively deactivate more and more functions (such as position detection and display mode always active) to recover more and more battery life.
These battery modes are partly due to the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 under the hood, a chip designed to keep smartwatches running longer, if not much faster. In the most extreme solo watch mode – where you only have the time, of course – battery life can stretch for weeks, says Fossil.
We tested our Fossil Gen 5 in the default daily mode; we went to sleep with 20-25 percent more battery. By further pushing the activity tracking and localization features you could be left without a charge before the day is over – not ideal, but it is not an exclusive Fossil problem.
We like the Wear OS dials provided by Fossil with its watches, some of which imitate the classic look of the Fossil watch. There are hundreds more to choose from via Google Play Store: this kind of flexibility in terms of the Wear operating system’s appearance is one of the few advantages it now has on the Apple Watch, where you have to stick to what Apple provides.
As for Wear OS as a whole, it has grown to become a complete and competent operating system for smartwatches: over the years the Google Assistant integration and fitness functions have improved, while apps like Google Maps are really useful on the wrist (a buzz will warn when it is necessary to turn, so it is not necessary to remove the phone).
In addition to the usual steps and heart rate monitoring, Wear OS lets you record a series of specific workouts, from badminton to skiing. Even limited support for iOS is now integrated, so you can use Fossil Gen 5 with an iPhone: you don’t have the same kind of tight integration with apps like Messages (so no response from your wrist, for example), or the Apple Health app.
Wear OS is available on many smartwatches, of course. What the Fossil Gen 5 series offers you is the software in an attractive and well-built package, with almost all the features you would like: GPS (to track your position without a phone), NFC (for mobile payments without a phone) and heart rate monitoring. And it’s also waterproof.
A major omission is the lack of an LTE option, so it is not possible to make and receive calls with Fossil Gen 5 unless the phone is nearby. It could be a problem, depending on how you want to use your smartwatch.
If you are considering Fossil Gen 5, it is worth remembering that giants of the caliber of Huawei and Samsung make smartwatches themselves but, not running Wear OS, they do not offer the same level of support for developers in terms of third-party apps.
If you are looking for a smartwatch, it is probably because you want to see the phone alerts on your wrist or you want a better way to monitor your steps and other exercises: in both cases, Fossil Gen 5 watches tick all the boxes, and it really is the best of Wear OS right now. The six different variants are now on sale for $ 295.